By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The Government’s new national development plan has pledged to deliver an all-island greenway network and introduce an hourly rail service between Dublin and Belfast.
The plan includes a significant increase for cross-border investment with the Government’s commitment of 500 million euro to the Shared Island Fund set to be at least doubled by 2030.
The plan will see total all-island investment of more than 3.5 billion euro to be delivered through the Shared Island Fund, Project Ireland 2040 fund and the Peace Plus programme.
The Government will work to deliver joint and co-ordinated investments with the Stormont Executive, the UK government, the EU and local authorities to improve connectivity, sustainability and prosperity.
The plan includes a number of cross-border priorities, including the creation of an island-wide greenway network which links the Atlantic coast with the Eastern seaboard through greenway projects across the border region.
It also commits to enhanced rail connectivity with the early introduction of an hourly rail service on the Dublin-Belfast line to be delivered through infrastructure and stock upgrades.
It also pledges the continuation of two projects which had been previously announced, the completion of all phases of the Ulster Canal restoration project and delivery of the cross-border Narrow Water bridge project.
The plan also calls for greater north-south co-operation on ecological issues, with priority given to investment in all-island electric vehicle charging networks and funding for climate action partnerships and interventions.
Other priorities include delivering the 40 million euro north-south research programme, creating all-island research centres and an integrated approach to developing third-level education in the north-west.
It also prioritises working with the Northern Ireland Executive on large scale north-south tourism initiatives.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said: “Our ambition is to create a more connected, sustainable and prosperous island for all.
“We will do that through a wide-ranging, sustained programme of investment, delivered through all-island partnerships.
“By enhancing cooperation and investment on a north-south basis, we can better address common economic, environmental and infrastructure needs, take up advantages of scale, release the full potential of border regions and enhance connections between people across the island.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, added: “I particularly welcome the strong commitment to north-south partnerships.
“This enhanced level of ambition — backed up with a commitment of more than 3.5 billion euro over 10 years for cross-border public investments — will benefit all communities and traditions and represents a real step change in terms of practical cooperation across the island.”